Break time nearly here for coaches
By Jim Thomas
Rams head coach Scott Linehan is interviewed by the media after a Rams full-squad mini-camp at Rams Park in Earth City on Sunday.
(Chris Lee/P-D)

The pace has been hectic and the "to-do" list never-ending for Scott Linehan since he was hired as Rams coach on Jan. 19. Nearly five months later, he still doesn't know his way around St. Louis.

Other than a couple of speaking engagements and a couple of Cardinals ballgames, Linehan hasn't gotten around much.

"I haven't gone anywhere other than to and from work, but at least I've branched off," Linehan said.

In other words, he has discovered alternate routes to Rams Park. "I've got my back roads," Linehan said with a measure of pride.

But things are about to slow down - the quiet before the storm of training camp and the 2006 season. Sunday marked the completion of the team's third and final minicamp of the spring. There will be one more week of the light practices known as OTAs (organized team activities), and then Linehan and his staff take a break until mid-July. Same goes for the players, although some will stick around an extra week for conditioning work.

For players and coaches alike, Linehan says the break is necessary.

"A lot of (the coaches) have got to still get moved," Linehan said. "I've got to get back to Washington at some point and see my mom. We've got to have that (off) time. If you don't take it, it starts to wear you down. And I don't think that's good. So we all need to get away for a little bit."

The break comes with the roster all but set. Linehan would still like to add a veteran blocking specialist to the depth chart at tight end, but that might have to wait until the league-wide roster cuts come in late August and early September.

And of course, he wants a decision from running back Marshall Faulk on Faulk's future.

"There's really no timetable," Linehan said. "I'm not sure how you can put a timetable on that."

But Linehan added, "I think sooner's better than later."

Even with Tony Fisher added to the roster, if Faulk opts for retirement the search is on for a backup to Steven Jackson - be it through trade, waiver wire, or free agency. But those appear to be the only issues hanging for the Rams - blocking tight end and Faulk's status.

"I'm surprised with what we've been able to get accomplished," Linehan said, speaking specifically about what has transpired on the practice field.

"We've stayed simple to a certain level, but we've added so many new things. You can't move on until you get comfortable with it, and we're so much more comfortable with things."

For example, Linehan said the offense looked much more comfortable running the no-huddle than it did a couple of weeks ago. Overall, about 40 percent of the offense is in, but that figure is misleading because most of the offensive foundation has been laid. Much of the remaining installation deals with situational plays - such as red zone offense vs. various coverages.

Linehan sees a chemistry beginning to develop on the coaching staff, as they learn about each other and learn the workload and division of labor that will be expected.

"Everybody wants to help out," Linehan said. "The biggest thing is making sure everyone's got a logical assignment. And making those adjustments now is crucial."

Linehan also has seen a growth process begin on the defense, as new leaders such as tackle La'Roi Glover, linebacker Will Witherspoon and safety Corey Chavous mesh with holdover players and rookies.

"We're much more talented (on defense), I think," Linehan said. "That's a good place to start. But we're also more veteran-like. There's just a good feeling over there."

In a Dick Vermeil-like touch, Linehan ended the weekend minicamp with a team barbecue at Rams Park for players, coaches and their families.

"It doesn't seem like you ever take time to kind of say hello to your new teammates," Linehan said. "Shoot, I've got coaches' families that I haven't gotten a chance to meet yet.

"I said from the onset, I want people to feel great about being here, and have a great sense of pride in where they work. And I want the families to feel welcome."

Vermeil couldn't have said it better.